Wednesday, December 21, 2011

who are we to judge?

Mel had a great post recently about judgement in the IF community. It's a post that makes you think about all aspects of your life - not just infertility.

I felt bad after reading it. Not bad about the post, of course, but bad about myself. Why? Because it made me think about all of the times in my life when I've been judgmental . . . and there are plenty of them.

We all judge. I get that. When we first meet somewhat, we have an initial impression of that person within the first few seconds just based on things like their look, the way they talk, the way they shake your hand, etc. How firm is their handshake? Do they make eye contact? Do they sound interested? Are they attractive? Are they well groomed? It sounds like a checklist of what to think about before a job interview, but in reality it's a checklist for all of life's interactions. These are all thoughts that cross our mind when meeting a person for the first time.

On the Internet, this "meeting" is a little different. We judge other bloggers by standards like the look of their site, the way they write their posts, their comments and interactions with other, their content, and the depth in which they tell their stories. Even though many of us have never met face-to-face, we still judge one another. It's the reason why we read or don't read certain people's blogs. It's the reason why many of us have our "cliques" and we don't venture outside of them.

I don't want to think that it goes far beyond the empathy Mel writes about in her post, but it does. I know that I'm guilty of it. I'm guilty of negative judgment: wanting to ask people WHY they are trying to have a baby when they write constantly about their failing marriage or how they don't believe they are ready to be parents. I'm also guilty of positive judgment: wondering why someone doesn't give it "one last college try." I know others have judged me, too, good and bad.

Maybe part of this is in our control. I often feel like I'm setting myself up for judgment based on the way I write about certain things. I'm not one to shy away from controversy or to write exactly how I feel. The fact that I even have this blog and write about some of my innermost thoughts is what opens the door for people to scrutinize me. Yet, is this fair? Is it okay to judge others - even when they put everything out in the open for people to see it?

I'm not sure that it is. For instance, let's look at Kim Kardashian. We all sat around and bad mouthed her when her marriage failed after 70-something days. We said "I knew it" or "I told you so." I did it. I'll admit that first hand. And I'm no fan of the Kardashians. But now that I've had time to reflect on it, I regret saying such horrible things about her. Who am I to judge if someone leaves his or her marriage after such a short period of time? It's not my life, and I have no idea what their relationship was/is like. They could have had a terrible marriage. He could have been a complete asshole. And you know what? Good for her for standing up and saying what was best for her. Not a lot of people would do that, especially with the entire world watching and ready to throw every bad name in the book at you. No. Most people would stay married, for fear of the backlash and hurting their partner.

It's the same way I felt after judging Michelle Duggar for having another baby. Do I think it's unfair that some people can get pregnant easily while others can't? Yes. As much as I can't relate to her, I have to remind myself that it's not my place to determine how many children for her is too many. This made me especially guilty after her miscarriage. Here I was for weeks, carrying on about how I can't believe she's having another child and then she loses this baby. Does this loss become any more or less valid because she has 19 other kids? I don't think so. It's still a loss.

I've gotten better about this as I've aged. I've become less judgmental with the more life experience I have. Over time, I've learned that it's okay for friendships to end. It doesn't mean that the other person is a bitch (or that I'm a bitch), but that people grow apart and have separate interests. I've learned to not judge other people's relationships, reminding myself that I have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. I've learned not to judge people for living together or being together for years and not marrying, or for being married for years and not having children. It reminds me of this saying: Be kind; for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Who am I to determine what that battle is and whether I believe their actions because of it are appropriate?

Ultimately, there's no rule book for life. That's why we have free will: the ability to do and say whatever we please. And, in the end, the only people we need to answer to are ourselves. My opinion on the way someone else is living his or her life doesn't matter, and neither does yours. I think it's easier to get wrapped up in what another person is doing. It's harder to let it go - let people live their lives and speak their minds without passing judgment.

I'm going to try my best from now forward to take this harder, higher road. It won't be simple. I just know that I would want others to do the same for me.


Anonymous said...

Here's my one problem about your post. I guess this is mostly in terms of Kim.... it's important to judge so that we convey and establish standards. The whole "live and let live" theme is why people don't even know what's right from wrong. I don't judge people personally but I do judge their actions and I think it's important for society to do so.

Kim said...

Katie, I whole heartedly agree with this post. And you are right- our blogs open us to criticism and judgement. Even in our own IF clique, we turn against each other, judge eachother and rear our ugly heads. I too have learned with age that people have a right to live the life they chose (or live by default) either way- its their choice. And not everybody agrees with my choices or yours, but its sure nice to have a place to come to get support from open-minded individuals that recognize that very right. I just today told someobody on facebook, we all have our battles, be careful not judge that. xoxoxoxox

Amy @loveAmyx said...

When I was about 13 I bought a postcard, it's wording has been carried in my heart ever since. Sometimes I get it better than others but it is how I try to live.

'Respect the difference'

You don't always have to agree or understand but whilst we have respect we remain on the right path.

Tammy said...

This is such a great post, Katie . . . it reads like a magazine article. I'm talked to my husband about this very topic, because I'm starting to learn that it's ok to have friends who have different lifestyle choices than I do -- for example, people who drink a lot more than I do, or people who aren't super-sensitive like me. Not everyone has to be like me in order to be my friend . . . I think part of it is that I'm afraid others won't like me BECAUSE I've never been a social drinker or BECAUSE I'm super-sensitive. But just like I shouldn't judge others, they shouldn't judge me. How freeing to just be yourself and let others be!

Rita said...

Great post, Katie. I love that quote: "Be kind; for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." It's so true. You have no idea what someone else is going through or what past ghosts they're fighting.

Jessica said...

Infertility has taught me not to judge. You never know what's going on in someones life behind the scenes and you never know how you would handle the situation unless you are in it.

Anonymous said...

So, no matter what... it's ok! I don't like that attitude. Respect the difference? Someone thinks or acts differently so that's good? A lot of times it is but what if it's wrong? What if it's not good for society? Should we just ignore or even respect it? so dumb

Lollipop Goldstein said...

I'm going to respond to anonymous (and since this is a flat medium and you can't hear my tone, I want it said beforehand that I'm curious and questioning and not berating): should we establish standards when no one else is affected? For instance, with the Kardashians, guests at her wedding may be annoyed, and yes, our actions always affect others to an extent, but do we need to set standards when behaviours are not truly and deeply affecting other people? How we treat others in society -- yes. But how we treat ourselves -- I'm not so sure.

And I base that on the fact that I'm not sure how we set those standards. The ones we set as a society are usually there to minimize damage to others. Would I want other people to set standards for things that only really affect me?

This post is a great reminder that we know so little about what goes on behind closed doors despite what we may believe we know based on reading someone's blog or seeing them in a magazine.

Great thought-provoking post.

Jen said...

Katie, I totally agree with you (and Mel). Infertility has also taught me to be a lot less judgemental. You really never do know what goes on behind closed doors, and you certainly never know what's going on with someone's BODY. Hell, I don't even know WTH is going on with mine half the time; it's certainly not my business how others deal with theirs!
And sure...there need to be some standards in society; most are considered LAWS: don't harm children/animals, don't steal, etc. But how long someone is married? Not my concern.

Rebecca said...

A very interesting post. And, yes, it is so hard not to judge others by the standards we have set for ourselves without knowing anything about what they are going through. A good reminder to live and let live.

Miss Megan said...

I agree. Excellent post. I too am guilty of judgement when doing something as simple as reading someone else's blog. I hate that I judge. I feel that as I have grown older (and more wise I hope!) I judge less, and I hope others judge me less as well.
Everyone has their cross to bear...just because you can't see it doesn't mean it isn't there. I am trying to remember that before making judgments about others. It's a work in progress. Thanks for posting.

dspence said...

I think this is a great point. You never know what battle that person is facing today. It's a simple matter of treat others the way you want to be treated. Thank you for reminding us!

manymanymoons said...

Looks like you made the Friday Roundup! Great Job. :)

areyoukiddingme said...

Excellent post. Excellent discussion.

@Anonymous: I guess the point is that you should reserve judgement until you have the full story. If you don't have the full story, you can't make an accurate judgement. You can only make a prejudiced judgement. (It's a prevailing theme in life. See the movie Rashomon)

I understand where you're coming from - people argue that acceptance of one alternative lifestyle (i.e. lack of respect for the institution of marriage) can ultimately lead to total breakdown of society. I can even see the logic behind it. But, I believe that human beings are not so easily swayed from what is right. It's just that as society grows, the number of people who ignore societal mores grows, so it seems as if everyone is getting worse. But if you could take a step back, you would probably notice that the percentages remain the same. If you have a hundred people and 1% are jerks, that's 1 person. If you have a thousand people, that's 10 people. You might have 10 times as many jerks, but they are counteracted by 10 times as many decent people.

Chickenpig said...

I totally agree. We set standards for out won behavior, and then judge others according to our own personal standard. But the fact remains, that we never know the whole story. As for what anonymous said, yes, there is a time and place for people's actions to be judged, and it's called a courtroom. Even there, a judge and jury are responsible for making a balanced decision based on the entire case. Unless you are the judge or on the jury, you don't know the whole story. I don't know Kim Kardashian, but I'm sure she has her reasons. As far as 'right' and 'wrong' goes, only those without sin should be throwing stones.

Mr. Thompson and Me said...

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a rule book for life? nother great post - thanks for writing it.

Her Royal Fabulousness said...

This is a great post. I am somewhere in the middle. I don't think we should judge quickly or without reason, but as social creatures we are vulnerable to the thoughts and opinions of those around us. Re: Kim Kardashian - I judge her because I feel like her actions cheapen the idea of commitment and marriage. Yes, she made a mistake and she is human, but she also used incredibly poor judgement and clearly does not hold commitment to a high level of respect. It sickens me. But, you are right. We never know what happens behind closed doors and in the end, it is only she who will have to deal with the ramifications.